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Dr Chen Song

Dr Chen Song


School of Psychology

+44 (0)29 2068 8910
Room 1.010, Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre, Maindy Road, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ
Available for postgraduate supervision

Structure determines function. Understanding what kinds of brain structure are optimal for cognitive function is central to neuroscience research as well as to the design of artificial intelligence. Research in my group (Brain Complexity and Consciousness Lab) focuses on the relations between brain structure, function and consciousness. We investigate (1) how the structure of the brain differs across individuals and leads to inter-individual differences in brain function and consciousness; (2) how sleep benefits cognition by improving brain structure for better functionality and higher cost-efficacy. From these studies, we wish to understand what constitutes an optimal brain structure, and explore how that may be achieved through learning, sleep and brain plasticity. 


PhD in Neuroscience, University College London
MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London
BSc in Biomedical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University


Since   2017: Principal Investigator, Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre, Cardiff University, UK
2014 - 2017: Postdoctoral Fellow, Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
2013 - 2014: Postdoctoral Fellow, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, UK
2010 - 2013: Postgraduate Researcher, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, UK
2009 - 2010: Postgraduate Researcher, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, UK
2007 - 2007: Undergraduate Researcher, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Science, Germany
2006 - 2009: Undergraduate Researcher, Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China











Brain Complexity

Our brain is highly complex and is composed of many regions, each serving a unique set of functions. What enables different brain regions to have different functions? Is that because of their inherent structural differences? If so, how do structurally different brain regions get to work coordinately? To understand the organizing principles of the brain, we study (A) how different brain regions differ structurally, (B) how the structural differences underlie the functional differences, and (C) whether the empirically observed function of a brain region is indeed what the structure of this region is optimal for.

From Brain Complexity to Behavioral Complexity

Mirroring the brain complexity, human behavior and consciousness are highly complex. The complexity is present not only in high-level cognitive domains such as introspection, planning, reasoning, but also in low-level sensory domains. For example, our visual perception of an image is rarely a truthful reflection of the physical features of the image, but is instead biased by the contexts in which the image appears and by our experience or expectation. To understand the links between brain complexity and behavioral complexity, we study (A) how different individuals differ in their brain structure, (B) how the inter-individual differences in brain structure affect neural function, and (C) lead to inter-individual differences in behavior and consciousness.

Brain and Behavioral Plasticity

A remarkable feature of human brain and behavior is their adaptability and plasticity. The environmental inputs we receive while awake can induce changes in brain structure, via which we learn and adapt. Even when we are asleep and disconnected from the environment, the brain is still highly active, and the sleeping brain activity can induce brain structural changes via activity-dependent plasticity. To understand the mechanisms of brain and behavioral plasticity, we study (A) how learning and sleep interact to change brain structure, (B) whether different mechanisms of brain plasticity may be at play during wake versus sleep, and (C) whether the contrast between wake and sleep in brain plasticity may hold key to our behavioral plasticity and adaptability.

We have funding available for PhD and postdoc. Please contact me at for any enquiry. We welcome anyone interested in the broad area of neuroscience, brain imaging and consciousness research to join or collaborate.

Current Research Students

  • Marco Bigica
  • Chunxiang Jiang
  • Alun Metcalf
  • Jack Briggs
  • Zhishan Liu
  • Ayse Can
  • Ilenia D'onofrio

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